UPDATE: this story is now under trial, you can read the latest update here.
A few days ago we covered a story about a couple in dispute with a photographer over ‘Album Cover Fees’. The story went incredibly viral getting coverage on around the blogosphere (dailymail, NBC 5, Petapixel, dpreview and DIYP were among the outlets who covered the story). In all this coverage (us included) there was no deep response from the photographer mentioned. Recently she posted an open letter which we are sharing here with her permission.
This is a classic he-said-she-said story and we are not taking any sides. We do think that it is important not to have the (serious) allegations unanswered, and for the sake of balance and giving Polito a fair chance to comment. We are also sharing the letter that came from Polito prior to the thing going viral that one of the commenter’s to the original story uploaded.
For more than 10 years, I have been serving brides in the photography industry. My company has photographed more than 600 weddings in a little over 10 years. I choose the word “serve” very intentionally because that is exactly what we have been doing. The photography industry is a business that revolves around the service of our amazing clients.
With those 600+ weddings, I can count on two hands the number of significant issues I have had with clients. That is probably less than 2% of unhappy people. I didn’t go to business school, but I believe that a satisfaction rate over 95% during a span of 10 years of doing business is something to be proud of.
That being said, we feel extremely blessed to have been welcomed into the lives of more than 600 families to capture one of the most important days of their respective lives.
Capturing precious moments has always brought me immense joy. During the last 10 years I have felt honored and privileged to have this opportunity, but this privilege has come at a steep price—one I am gladly willing to pay because I love all of you and love serving you. Because weddings are booked so far in advance, my schedule as a photographer is not always my own. My level of commitment to serving you meant that no matter what was going on in my life at the time of your wedding, I would be there to photograph your special moment because I told you I would be. It is that simple.
Commitment is missing your own brother’s wedding for the wedding of a couple you had already committed to photograph. It is having a miscarriage at 6 months on a Thursday, and persevering to show up at a wedding two days later because, regardless of what was going on in my life, this day was about someone else’s happiness. Commitment is missing family reunions, Thanksgiving, and family vacations. It is photographing a wedding 8.5 months pregnant and then hopping on a plane out of the country two weeks after giving birth to photograph a couple’s special day. I am and have always been committed to our clients and their happiness, and it causes me great pain that anyone suggests otherwise.
This brings me to recent events that have occurred. I have received consistent recommendations to “say something” without being emotional. But this is absolutely emotional. For 10 years I have worked extremely hard to build my reputation, and believe that, not only do my 5 star ratings not lie, I have absolutely earned them. Prior to last week, on several occasions this bride had expressed her happiness and resounding approval for the photographs and her experience with us. Indeed, there are several emails that show her enthusiasm for our services and gratitude for the quality of her pictures, yet none of these emails were documented in the recent news story. This bride had posted our pictures across her social media accounts and had nothing but great things to say.
The story you are not hearing is that it was only last week when the bride claimed to realize that, per our contract, welcome packet, and emails, she would not get her wedding images until her album was completed. This conflicts with the numerous emails in which we clearly reiterated what is stated in the contract: low-resolution watermarked proofs are sent to the couple several weeks after the wedding for them to choose their desired photos, while the non-watermarked, high-resolution images are released upon completion of the album. As any of our brides would tell you, we have a very strong policy regarding the high-resolution files, which are not released until the photo album is completed. As a photographer, I do not stand alone with this policy. Although every photographer has their own specific policy and procedure for their business, we do this to complete our contract in full with the bride, delivering the album with their files and having them sign a release form. Once the album and high resolution files have been delivered, we are no longer liable for these images, which is our way of closing the books on past weddings. To suggest that we would hold images “hostage” in retaliation is simply inaccurate. Our intention has never been to “hold hostage” a couple’s images. We have always been upfront and honest.
In fact, over two weeks ago we emailed the bride and stated our willingness to release to them their images prior to having a completed album. Then last week, we also offered to assume the cost of the album cover before the mention of a news interview ever occurred. Although the contract provides when the images were to be delivered, we attempted to make concessions to keep the bride satisfied.
Contrary to the bride’s allegations, our business has been in constant contact with her over the last four months. Her allegations to the contrary are blatantly untrue.
As a matter of fact, I personally emailed her on Wednesday, January 14th to tell her that I had not been in the studio that week but had heard from my studio manager that this bride was unhappy. Although I did not do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical, I apologized to her and was willing to make concessions as a matter of good customer service and to make her happy. I hoped we could move forward. However, this was never mentioned in the news story.
I also referenced a prior conversation that I had with the bride months prior where I expressed an interest in paying her for her services to help with my blog. This bride is a blogger and social media expert with the means necessary to help build a business over social media. She also has the means necessary to tear down a business. That is not an accusation, but an observation.
Several hours after I contacted the bride to make things right by her, I received a text-message where the bride had posted on Instagram a photograph of NBC at her apartment with the caption “No big deal, NBC in our apartment” and a comment explaining, “it’s an investigative story on why we can’t get our wedding photos that we’ve paid for.” Shortly thereafter, I received an email from a reporter at the same local news station. We had taken action to make things right, and instead this bride went directly to the media , bragging about the upcoming news story on all of her social media accounts and creating a very large following, which was boosted by her business as a professional social media expert. Despite representations to the contrary, I was not provided three days to respond to the media story. It is sad and hurtful that she has taken such joy in attempting to destroy a reputation I have spent years trying to build.
If this story were truly based how upset and hurt she was, she would not post statements to humiliate me or harm my business. Statements like, “I’m pretty sure her business is ruined,” “I hope this goes viral,” “feeling excited,” and “justice has been served” are not the actions of a concerned and hurt bride; they are actions of an individual trying to take someone down and instigate a lynch mob of negativity across the nation. To make matters worse, I responded with a lengthy statement to the reporter on Thursday morning because I was out of town for work, and was told in writing from the reporter that “I will do my best to sum up your position to give your side of the story.” In the interview that aired, this reporter only included the very last sentence of my statement completely leaving out key information in the story.
Are your actions truly one of justice? Justice is defined as: just behavior or treatment, “a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people.” In my opinion, these actions have not brought any form of justice to either of us.
Thousands of people that I have never met and have never worked with have gone to great lengths on social media to disparage my name and my businesses. The most disgraceful review of them all occurred on Yelp: someone stated, “She gave me AIDS. Photos were okay. 2 stars.” The worst and most humiliating part was that the bride’s husband “liked” the comment. On a different social media site, the groom also called me a cheater and a scammer, and someone who “steals” money from her clients. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of people followed this comment and posted the same words on a variety of other websites, including my business Facebook page, which I temporarily had to shut down. Additionally, on a different social media site someone said to the bride, “two options: 1) We need an address http:/ruindays.com/ 2) We need an address, an alibi, and large plot of land with no questions.” The bride also “liked” this comment.
It is very clear that this small business discrepancy over $125 has gone too far because of ulterior motives.
In order to show my resolve and true intentions, I am willing to make a BOLD statement and request. If any of our past brides have ever felt that they have been wronged outside the terms of our agreements, please let me know. I will do everything I can to make it right. I take my business and your weddings and photographs very seriously. I love what I do and am proud of the clients I serve. If you would like to reach out, please email: PolitoPhoto@Gmail.com
Please know that I can substantiate everything I have said here through lengthy email strings, screen shots, a signed contract, and other documents provided to the bride. The fact that I am not posting them for the world to see is not because I do not have them. Rather, as a professional with a strong moral compass, I will not take part in disparaging another person publically no matter how bad a situation has become.
I do not like being in the spotlight and am a very private person. There is a reason I stay behind the camera. By no choice of my own, I have been forced into the national spotlight to be ridiculed and pressured into acquiescing to this couple’s demands to save my business. To my supporters, thank you for your encouragement, understanding, and willingness to hear the entire story.
Here is the letter that we got via one of the commenters to the original post:
What do you think?
[lead image by lisa rigby]